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|Drafting Jaden Schwartz was part of a busy few days for the St. Louis Blues, one in which Doug Armstrong is transitioning into the GM role nicely. (Getty Images). |
LOS ANGELES -- Jaden Schwartz
was thrilled to hear his name called Friday in the first round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, but it wasn't the same without his sister, Mandi, there to help him celebrate.
Mandi was in a Regina, Saskatchewan hospital undergoing chemotherapy to battle acute myeloid leukemia, but she was watching on TV when Jaden was selected with the 14th overall pick by the St. Louis Blues.
Immediately after being selected, Jaden directed the focus away from him and onto something more important than a hockey draft: her battle with cancer.
"She couldn't make it, she's doing a little bit of chemotherapy right now," Jaden said. "I just want to say hello to her because I know she's watching. We'll see her soon, and she means a lot to every single one of us."
Mandi, 22, started a hockey career herself at Yale University, where she is currently a junior. Doctors have told her she must find a stem cell donor by September. So far, more than 1,600 people have been tested at bone-marrow drives at Yale, but a match has not been found.
"We're still looking for that perfect match," Jaden told NHL.com. "It's hard to find that 10-out-of-10 match but we're doing a lot of work to find it. She's a positive and dedicated person and she's going to do that all the way through."
Mandi's positive attitude and dedication has rubbed off on Jaden, who followed in her footsteps by leaving home to play hockey in the United States.
While with Tri-City of the USHL last season, the 17-year-old forward took the league's scoring title with 83 points (33 goals, 50 assists) in 60 games, earning the USHL's highest point total since Buffalo's Thomas Vanek in 2001-02.
At 5-foot-10, 180 lbs., Schwartz is a small forward with good hands to go along with speed and mobility. He was projected as a late first round pick, but the Blues ranked him high enough to select him at No. 14 overall...on his 18th birthday.
"(Getting drafted) is a very special moment for me and my family. Waiting out there, hoping to get picked in the first round, I didn't know where I was going to go," Schwartz said. "My heart was racing, but this is a special birthday gift for me, and I couldn't be happier going to an organization like St. Louis."
Schwartz knows he'll have to work hard to improve his strength if he hopes to make an impact at the big-league level.
"I'm really looking forward to the hard work I'm going to have to put in to make it into the NHL," he said. "I can't give you an exact date or year that I'll be there, but I'm hoping its soon and I want to be an impact player, so I want to make sure I'm ready before I go."
His coach at Tri-City, Drew Schoneck, said Schwartz is always a dangerous player for the opposition.
"Jaden is not afraid of the traffic areas. He is always around the puck, be it in the front of the net or in the corners," Schoneck said. "Couple that with a fierce competitive nature and great vision on the ice, he is a threat every time he is on the ice."
Schwartz is leaving the USHL for Colorado College, where he'll continue to hone his skills. He said his vision of the game is good, but playing a few years in college will help him improve his strength and present him with another new challenge.
But that challenge is still a few months away. Right now, it's about finding a cure for Mandi.
"She means the world to me. She is the best sister I could ask for," Jaden said after being drafted last week. "She's been a role model for me growing up. We've been close her whole life. It's not easy not having her here, but I know she's proud." To find out how you can help, visit Mandi's card at BecomeMyHero.org.